Education  June 1, 2015

Boulder startup VerbalizeIt wins $250,000 CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge

FORT COLLINS — VerbalizeIt, a startup based in Boulder and New York, won the second annual CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge business pitch competition on Saturday, taking home $250,000 cash and a suite of mentoring, professional services and other prizes.

VerbalizeIt uses human translators and automation to allow businesses to communicate with global customers in their own language. The company contracts with 24,000 translators around the world to provide services in areas like marketing, customer service and legal documents, helping to provide more nuanced results than simple machine translations.

VerbalizeIt, which appeared on the television show “Shark Tank” last year, out-pitched 14 other startups in a bracket-style competition that took place over two days in conjunction with Fort Collins Startup Week.

“This is an amazing opportunity,” VerbalizeIt cofounder Kunal Sarda said in a press release from Colorado State University. “Winning the CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge really puts all our hard work into perspective.”

Loveland-based Extrude to Fill LLC, founded by Rick Fitzpatrick and Ron Leach, took home the second place prize of $25,000 cash and professional services. The company has developed a new, patented approach to injection molding.

A new twist was added to the finals this year when Curt Richardson, cofounder and chairman of Otter Products and Blue Ocean Enterprises, offered the two finalists the option of splitting the first- and second-place winnings, meaning a guaranteed $137,500 for each startup. But both VerbalizeIt and Extrude to Fill both declined the offer for the shot to win $250,000 outright.

Other winners during the challenge included:

Boulder-based Native, a travel app backed by human assistants, won the collegiate division and advanced to the quarterfinals of the enterprise division.

Chem with Ray, a tutoring app developed by CSU master’s student Ray Chard, won the $2,000 top prize in the Trolley Pitch competition where teams had until the next bus stop to pitch their ideas.

The Space Research Co., a team based at the University of Colorado geared toward reducing the cost of conducing bioscience experiments in space, took second place and $1,000 in the Trolley Pitch competition.

Wise Art Foods, meanwhile, won the “Invest-in-Me” game for raising the most “Blue Bucks” from attendees at the weekend’s events. The team, a group from CSU that makes InfusiBoost food products, won $2,000.

“Our congratulations go to VerbalizeIt, Extrude to Fill, and all of the teams that competed this year,” said Christine Chin, co-director of the Challenge and interim director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship at the CSU College of Business. “We’re excited about the positive momentum this win will create for these companies.”

Correction: Due to incorrect information supplied by CSU, an earlier version of this story misidentified Extrude to Fill cofounder Rick Fitzpatrick as Rich Fitzgerald.

FORT COLLINS — VerbalizeIt, a startup based in Boulder and New York, won the second annual CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge business pitch competition on Saturday, taking home $250,000 cash and a suite of mentoring, professional services and other prizes.

VerbalizeIt uses human translators and automation to allow businesses to communicate with global customers in their own language. The company contracts with 24,000 translators around the world to provide services in areas like marketing, customer service and legal documents, helping to provide more nuanced results than simple machine translations.

VerbalizeIt, which appeared on the television show “Shark Tank” last year, out-pitched 14 other…

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